WRAIR's Innovative dual-vaccine proposal wins 2012 Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development

Dr. Gary R. Matyas

Dr. Gary R. Matyas

Dr. Gary R. Matyas has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the NIDA Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development.

Matyas proposes to develop an effective, safe and easily manufactured combination anti-heroin/HIV vaccine that could treat heroin addiction while also preventing HIV infection in those receiving the vaccine. Matyas will receive $1,000,000 per year for five years to support his research. He is a U.S. Army civilian at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced the award July 25.

"This highly innovative dual-vaccine model would simultaneously address the intertwined epidemics of heroin abuse and HIV," said NIDA director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "This is precisely the type of ground-breaking research NIDA's Avant-Garde program was designed to support. The implications for public health are enormous."

The proposal stems from an existing research collaboration between NIDA and the WRAIR's U.S. Military HIV Research Program, which is supported by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. In 2010, the two organizations entered into an agreement to create a combination anti-heroin/HIV vaccine. The goal was to build upon previous preclinical research indicating that hapten-based anti-drug vaccines--in which a small molecule chemically similar to a drug of abuse (hapten) is bound to a protein carrier to induce an immune response--showed promise against a variety of abused drugs, including heroin. As a result of this collaboration, a combination candidate anti-heroin/HIV vaccine has now been created that is ready for optimization and advanced preclinical testing. This current grant award will support this next phase of research and development.

"Heroin use is strongly associated with a high risk of HIV infection and represents an increasingly important worldwide health problem," said Matyas. "The possibility of creating a combination heroin-HIV vaccine provides an important opportunity to address both a unique treatment for heroin abuse as well as continuing the quest to develop an effective preventive HIV vaccine."

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Last Modified Date: 26-Jul-2012